When Bob Harlan told Ron Wolf “It’s your show,” he showed courage of foresight, putting faith in a man who would become a future Hall of Fame front office manager.
What Harlan didn’t expect to do was set a precedent, one that would remain in Green Bay for more than 20 years through some good and not so good front office heads.
Harlan would never have presumed to tell Wolf what to do about just about anything. He was more of a care giver. In the Packers’ atypical ownership structure, Harlan was more like the head of the board than the guy running the company who theoretically answers to it.
But what happens when your GM and your coach disagree? The GM has final say. But what if the GM is wrong? What if the man who is supposed to be in charge can readily see he’s wrong, but has no substantive power to say much about it?
When Mark Murphy consolidated his authority in the wake of transitioning Ted Thompson from his leadership role as GM, some wondered if it was his way of attempting to get more involved in day-to-day operations. And that certainly may be true.
But it’s hard to argue a shakeup wasn’t needed. In his press conference introducing Brian Gutekunst, Murphy talked about breaking down the silos in the organization.
His hope was the new organizational structure would provide better communication and a more cohesive vision for the team, a vision that used to be solely under the purview of the GM.
If Mike McCarthy wants to play a certain type of scheme and there’s a player available who could help, he could always go to Ted Thompson and say “Hey, Ted, I think we should get this guy.”
And Thompson would inevitably tell him to kick rocks.
Now, the head coach can go to Murphy, have a frank conversation about the roster, and Murphy can go to the front office with the request.
McCarthy doesn’t have hours to spare during the week, or during training camp to meet with the personnel staff, but Murphy does.
When Murphy says McCarthy, who will now report directly to the team president, will discuss things like coaching and game plan with him, it’s presumably not to meddle with scheme. Murphy isn’t going to be wondering why McCarthy isn’t running more crossing routes against man coverage.
By meeting more regularly — and there will now be more meetings of what a private company might call “department heads” to discuss strategy, check in, and assess performance — Murphy can get a better idea of the vision of the team from the coach.
He’ll have those same meetings with the GM and this time Murphy can actually wield some level of authority and offer a directive if necessary.
This is how 31 other teams are set up, only it’s the owner who has that sort of power.
So long as Murphy doesn’t interfere with the people he’s hired to do their jobs, and instead shepherds the 30,000-foot vision of the team, while being a liaison between coach and front office, this system can not only work, but improve the Packers.
This is particularly true at a time when the new head of the front office will begin his first year as GM and may feel deferential to the team’s Super Bowl winning coach. It’s Mark Murphy’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen, but also to make sure the coach’s requests, comments, and input is still being heard.
The irony of this is by creating one level of accountability, it’s removing another, setting up the same precedent Wolf instituted when he was hired with nearly unchecked authority. Now, the team president becomes the de facto owner, answering only to the board, a group of people who don’t and likely can’t know if Murphy is doing an effective job handling the football aspects of the job.
That’s how 31 other NFL teams operate.
Breaking down silos should be a good thing for the Packers, as will additional communication and accountability.
That’s true as long as Murphy — or whomever is in his position next — is closer to Bob Harlan than Jerry Jones.